The writing’s on the wall when it comes to Fresh Fish Japanese Restaurant’s intentions – it’s a Japanese restaurant that’s all about fresh fish – but it’s certainly one Hong Kong establishment that pulls the tatami mat out from under its customers when one learns that owner Jiang Sheng’s deep understanding of sushi and sashimi is informed by the archaic Chinese tradition that gave rise, in time, to the food most famously associated with The Land Of The Rising Sun. Sushi began not in Japan, but in China, and now the popular rolled up morsels have a proper home at an underground North Point location in the Ngan Fai Building along Wharf Road, a place that speaks to the true origin of the sushi roll.
Fresh Fish Japanese Restaurant is fresh in more ways than one. No connoisseur of sushi and sashimi – and there are plenty of these in Hong Kong – would accept anything less than the freshest. The city is filled, in the words of owner Jiang Sheng, ‘with the fragrance of fresh sushi’, meaning that competition for the best Japanese joint is as stiff as a swordfish’s nose. Keeping things as fresh and straightforward as his restaurant’s name, Sheng has located his restaurant away from the madding crowds and that all-pervasive scent along North Point’s Wharf Road, facing the onshore breeze from that very ocean that circumscribes the globe and where creatures like scallops, sweet shrimp, tuna and mackerel call home before flinging themselves into the fishermen’s nets and making their way to table.
Fresh Fish Japanese Restaurant keeps its prices very low by Hong Kong standards by making the most of night market produce, hand-selected for plumpness and, yes, freshness. Sheng describes the thick, fat cuts he uses for his sashimi as full of ‘bass’ flavour (the ‘note’ not the fish), and in his general pursuit of peace and harmony, beauty and elegance he is unafraid to combine typical seafood ingredients with unusual intruders like snails and figs. Another signature at this North Point gem, hidden downstairs in the Ngan Fai Building, is the roast mackerel, whose sweet oils, when baked at a high temperature, slowly moisten the delicate fish, granting a flavour only enhanced by Fresh Fish’s homemade sweet and salty sauce.